“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” The opening words to the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth” are simple but profound.
Of course, everyone wants peace: no wars, no bickering, no slavery, no oppression etc. However, when we start arguing with someone about an insignificant topic, or when we don’t want to admit we’re wrong, or when we have a hard time forgiving someone, it’s hard to find that peace within ourselves.
The truth is that peace does begin “with me.”
How can we cultivate this peace in our hearts?
It might seem like a simple answer, but regular fasting (together with prayer) cultivates peace in our hearts. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
Let’s take for example, forgiving someone. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are all called to be merciful and forgive those who have hurt or offended us.
But what if the offense is grievous? Say, like torture, abuse, rape or murder? And what if the person we must forgive is not repentant?
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus didn’t give any exceptions to this rule. We will be forgiven as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are still called to be merciful and to forgive regardless of the offense. We are all called to have peace in our hearts. Forgiveness and showing mercy to others helps heal our hearts and souls. However, forgiving someone, especially those who have grievously harmed us, is not easy and it is impossible without God’s grace. Fasting opens our hearts to this beautiful grace and peace.
The testimony below from one of the Live the Fast community members might help to illustrate this:
“Throughout my life, a relative of mine was verbally abusive to me and to others in our family. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a mental illness and, with medication, she was able to stop being verbally abusive. When she got older and began exhibiting signs of dementia, however, it seemed like she was falling back into her former caustic verbal abuse. I had thought that I had forgiven her, but realized that I never did forgive her for all the cruel things she had said and done to me. At that point, I had already been fasting for several months and someone had suggested that I fast and pray for this relative in order to help me to forgive her. So I fasted and prayed for her and eventually, I realized that I had been able to forgive her and to speak about and treat her with the utmost love and kindness. I don’t think I could have done that without praying and fasting for her.”
Lent is a time of change and sacrifice. Fasting and prayer together will help cultivate peace and forgiveness in our hearts. Fasting will invite the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
Fasting is not an easy practice with our society’s current tendency to overindulge. However, if you can do penitential acts during Lent, if you can fast during Lent, then you can fast all year round!
For more information on how to get started with fasting, check out our website (http://livethefast.org) Always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.
To sign up for LTF’s free biweekly fasting newsletter, click here.
Live the Fast is a Roman Catholic Apostolate that is focused on bringing more awareness to the discipline of fasting by offering educational resources on prayer and fasting, a prayer community that will inspire one to live the fast and providing nutritious fasting breads. (Priests and religious receive fasting breads and resources free of charge.)